God brought the greatest good the world has ever known out of the most horrifying sin the world has ever seen. And it was His plan from before creation.
So we want a handle on how to manage this paradox or mystery, that God forbids things he brings about, and God commands things that he hinders from happening — that in one sense something is the will of God and in another sense that same something is not the will of God. Without this category of thought, I don’t think you can make sense out of the Bible or the God of the Bible, so let’s look at these two kinds of “willing.”
God’s Will of Decree
Here’s number one. Let’s call it either the sovereign will of God or his will of decree. It means God’s sovereign control of everything that comes to pass. It’s one of the clearest teachings of the bible. Let’s look at some verses. Matthew 26:39, Jesus is in Gethsemane and he prays like this: “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
What does “as you will” mean? What kind of “will” of God is that? Well, it means His plan for Jesus to be crucified. “If there’s no other way, Father, if that is the infinitely wise way, the infinitely loving way, the infinitely just way, do what you must do.” And he did it.
A Script with Sin
And here’s the crucial thing to observe: it was shot through with sin and could not have happened without sin. It’s a sin to kill the son of God. It’s a sin to mock the son of God. It’s a sin to whip the son of God with the stripes prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah 53:5). It’s a sin to be expedient and wash your hands and hand Jesus over (Matthew 27:24).
And yet we all know from Acts 4:27: “Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to take place.”
The script was written for Jesus’s betrayal in Gethsemane and Good Friday in great detail in Isaiah 53, and Psalm 22, and in many other passages. The script was written. The will of God is a fixed, determinant purpose to bring about the death of his son. Isaiah 53:10, “It was the will of the Lord to bruise him,” and it was full of sin, which means we must have a category of thinking that says God can ordain that sin happen without being a sinner.
If you don’t have that category in your mind, you can’t handle the cross and the prophecies. God ordains that there be sin in the particulars of the death of his son because he couldn’t have been crucified without it, and he is not himself a sinner in ordaining that sin be.